Diversity Spotlight: Susan P. Frost

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we recognize Susan Pringle Frost, who was an integral part of founding what is now CTAR!

Susan P. Frost was one of the founding members of Charleston Real Estate Exchange, later renamed Charleston Trident Association of Realtors® (CTAR). The group organized in 1907 to exchange listing information, agree on compensation and influence legislation to protect property rights.

Frost was a preservationist, suffragist, and Realtor® who held a reputation for being outspoken, dedicated and determined to fight for social justice. This kept her at the forefront of progression. Frost was the first president of Charleston’s Equal Suffrage League and played a significant role in advocating for women’s rights. She established the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1920, one of the nation’s earliest preservation groups. Her advocacy efforts led Charleston to develop the nation’s first zoning ordinance in 1931. She worked as a zoning monitor on the Board of Adjustment throughout the 1940’s.

Frost was born January 21, 1873 to a prominent family that owned a rice plantation and fertilizer business. She attended St. Mary’s Episcopal Boarding School in Raleigh, North Carolina for two years. An unstable market eventually caused her family businesses to fail and she was forced to work in order to support herself. Frost first worked for Architect Bradford Lee Gilbert, as a stenographer and later worked for the US District Court. While working for Gilbert, she discovered her passion for historic architecture.
Frost’s passion to preserve architecture led her to use artifacts, ironwork, and woodwork she salvaged from demolished buildings in restoration projects. With the assistance of Thomas Pinckney, an African American craftsman, the pair restored buildings throughout Charleston.

Frost focused on the preservation of neighborhoods through the process of purchase, renovation, and resale. She renovated and sold multiple properties along Tradd St, Bedon Alley, Michael’s Alley and East Bay Street, as well as the Miles Brewton House and the Joseph Manigault House. Perhaps her most visible contribution to the architectural landscape of Charleston was taking the former mercantile properties along East Bay and painting them in non-historic pastel colors–a project now famously known as Rainbow Row!

Notably, Frost’s preservation efforts played a major role in transforming Charleston into a national tourist destination and she is celebrated for her public service and contributions to the city. She died October 6, 1960 at the Miles Brewton House and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

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